Sreedevi S. Kartha, who wrote the Malayalam translation of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s ‘Transcendence: My Spiritual Experience with Pramukh Swamiji’, was allegedly asked to stay away from the function organised for the release of the book.
In a Facebook post Sreedevi alleges that the publisher of the translation, ‘Kaalaatheetham’, told her to stay away because Brahma Vihari Das of BAPS Swami Narayana Sanstha, who was to attend the function, did not like the presence of women on the stage along with him.
The publisher is Thrissur-based Current Books.
“I was told women should not be present on the stage where the Swamiji, representing the ashram, sits, three rows in front of the venue should be allotted for the male followers of the ashram, and women are not allowed to sit there,” Sreedevi wrote on Facebook.
Because the organisers had said that the first three rows of seats at the venue were not for women, Sreedevi added sarcastically:
“The first three rows also should be reserved for Swami’s followers so that they can ensure that even impure shadow of women must not fall on him.”
No soon did the post go viral that women and youth took out protest marches to the Sahitya Academy in Thrissur, where the function was scheduled. Various socio-cultural organisations joined in.
Women protesters occupied the front seats at the venue and raised slogans. They demanded that the publishers issue an apology to Sreedevi.
According to The Hindu, eminent writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair, who was to have released the Malayalam translation, did not turn up for the event. Seeing the protesters, Swami Brahma Vihari Das refused to attend the function.
Arun Tiwari, who co-wrote the book with the late former President, left the venue when the function was announced cancelled and refused to respond to any queries.
As the situation went out of control, organisers abandoned the event.
The publishing house’s manager K.J. Johny said that they normally do not invite translators for book release functions. He also told the media that the publishing house was sorry for the inconvenience and mental trauma caused to Sreedevi.
PTI reports that noted poet Sugathakumari commented on the issue in the following words: “(those) who are afraid of their mothers should go back to dark age caves.”
Sreedevi has, meanwhile, called it “a shameful act on the part of the publishers”.
She said that barring of women from functions is equal to the Taliban culture were women are asked “not to show body except eyes”.
She also alleges that the publication has not apologised to her.
But speaking to New Indian Express, Bhupendra Patil of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Mumbai said that Swamijis always maintained at least a distance of 25 to 30 feet from the opposite gender because of the sansthas rules. “If a Swami comes in touch with a woman, even a very small girl, he will have to observe a day’s fast,” he said.